Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” – Galatians 4:6
The childhood of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, bore similarities to an Army boot camp. Everything was done on a rigid schedule. Any disobedience was punished swiftly, often with the “rod.” And if the rod was used, the children were required to “cry softly.” One of his biographers said that by such harshness the house, though full of children, was as quiet as if it were empty.
Talk about a carefree childhood.
It’s not surprising that as John grew up, and as he entered the ministry in the Church of England, he carried this harshness with him. He could believe and preach that God was loving, but he also knew God carried a big stick. Wesley always worried that he wasn’t good enough, and his failures proved that to himself. Although he loved God, he feared God more.
His famous heart-warming experience on May 24, 1738 changed this. It was an intensely personal one that brought the gospel to him in personal terms. He wrote, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Years later, reflecting on his life, he said this experience wasn’t exactly a conversion, as if he wasn’t a Christian before. Instead, he said the experience changed him into a different type of Christian.
“I had…the faith of a servant, though not that of a son!”
He had had the faith imprinted on his soul by the rod of his childhood. Then he stumbled onto the real faith fueled by grace.
We are loved by God like a child is loved by a doting mom or dad. Parental discipline comes from listening, instructing, forgiving, guiding, believing, trusting. Just like Jesus taught us, embodied for us. If he could love unconditionally the eternally obtuse disciples, so can he love us.
We should never dishonor the gospel by laying on it the mistakes of our past.
We are sons and daughters of a God we call Dad or Mom. Your choice. Regardless, there’s no rod in sight.